The sun is shining today!!!

I thought it was gone. It’s been rainy and drizzly and yesterday SNOWY here in Vienna. I thought the sun was gone but it was very cold last night (so clear) and this morning I’m sitting in the sun, like a cat, just enjoying it it.

So today is Wednesday. It was a slow day Monday–I went shopping and took advantage of my 20% discount card to pick up some treasures for my daughter. In the afternoon I checked out a few more Christmas markets. It’s nice just to wander thru and look at all the stalls. I picked up supplies to make a couple litres of Bailey’s. We are having family over today so that gave it a couple days to mellow in the fridge. I was short some condensed milk so had to walk down to the grocery store to pick some up.

My cousins apartment has three full sized grocery stores within a few minutes walking distance PLUS many smaller sidewalk shops with fresh fruit and vegetables. Also many bakeries. Most if not all of the smaller shops cater mainly to the middle eastern residents of this area. I think it’s absolutely possible to live in the city without a car–no need for a four litre jug of milk if you can pick up one litter every day. This may increase the amount of time spent in grocery stores but when you think about parking, and carrying heavy groceries it makes sense to just do a little every day.

Tuesday I headed into the city to pick up some “Stille Nacht” stamps. I was sorry I hadn’t bought some in Oberndorf when I was there. They weren’t here at my cousins’ post office, just behind her apartment building, so I was really hoping they weren’t something special that could only be bought in the Oberndorf post office. But at the main PO I found some. I walked around the old town–this is really the oldest part of Vienna.

I sat for a bit in St Rupert’s church, the oldest church in Vienna. I had tickets for the Bruegel exhibit at the big art museum but thought I might see the Jewish museum beforehand. It wasn’t far but I swear my phone took me in circles. Which was ok because I got to the big clock at Schwedensplatz just at noon as the figures began to move and the organ played. But there was a big delivery truck parked adjacent and I swear he fired up his big diesel on purpose to drown out the charms of the clock as he just sat there idling.

Just around the corner was the Greek Orthodox Church, which opened to the public as I got there. Very ornate and beautiful inside and out. I was very close to the Jewish museum but I think I was running out of time as I had a timed ticket for the special exhibit at the big art museum. So I headed over only stopping for a punch and a sausage in the Christmas market. You may not know Bruegel the artist but I guarantee if you see his art you will know him. I’ve loved his work since I first saw it and I couldn’t believe there was an exhibition of almost 75% of his known work here in Vienna. These last two are from a six painting series of the seasons. This last one, Bringing Home the Herd, is now my new favourite. Many of his paintings are extremely detailed, to be displayed at eye level with many provocative details meant to spark lively discussion. He is very critical of what he considers hypocritical behaviour in the church or general population. I picked up an audio guide which is the best way to see exhibitions like this as it highlights details and information I would normally miss. I spent the afternoon in this exhibition and loved every second of it. But my poor feet did not like all the standing so I was glad to get home (after a quick trip to the grocery to pick up grapes and pretzel buns). Supper was liptauer cheese and buns in front of the tv– so good!!! Watched Braveheart dubbed into German and then to bed.

Country markets

Today we headed to the outskirts of Salzburg to a daytime country Christmas market. This one had a really small town feel with lots of activities geared to families. It was at a castle we visited two summers ago and the parking lots were filled by ten am. Over 700 Christmas trees decorated the grounds and it was really the nicest market I’ve visited yet. The handcrafts were so beautiful and unique I spent too much money here. We stopped for a schnapps part way thru. The kids area was done up so nice with a petting zoo, fire pits for roasting hotdogs and marshmallows. There were play houses and a train the kids could ride thru Santa’s back yard. Grampas was there too, to frighten bad children into behaving. This devil figure plays quite a prominent role in Austrian Christmas tradition. You see him everywhere, in shops, in chocolate and marzipan. North American Christmas is too goody-goody. Not enough mention of what happens to bad little children.

Unfortunately it was a bit of a rainy afternoon which made the pine trees smell all the better. A hot punch under a pine tree was delicious.

Hallein is another village close to Salzburg. This is the final resting place of Franz Gruber, the man behind the music of Stille Nacht. Silent night will be 200 years old this Christmas Eve. The old church opposite the school he taught at has a beautiful old organ that was being tuned as we visited. There were plaques on the backs of the pews naming people who had made donations to the church. Some were really old and very ornate. My second cousin and his family live on our way home to Vienna so we stopped there for the night and a visit. I love seeing the insides of Austrian homes. This one is three stories in a four-plex. I loved the tiles on the floor in the basement, original to the construction of the house. Not so old really, built in 1979. We visited, spent the night, and in the morning went for a walk in the park behind the house. What a beautiful spot for kids, a playground in the woods and kilometres of walking/biking paths behind the house. The downtown had a market going and a beautiful old church. There is a really old house just behind my cousins apartment. I’m so curious to see what it looks like inside. There are new owners and they are beginning a renovation. Now we are home again in Vienna having a schnapps and lebkuchen. Goodnight.

Silent night…

We headed out in the morning for Salzburg, about a three hour drive. First stop was a pilgrim church across the valley from Salzburg. You can see the fortress on the skyline. Only 2442 kilometres to Santiago!! Better start walking 😊 The Camino is everywhere. The church was beautiful. But it was the trees I really liked. They look so naked in the winter but come springtime they vigorously sprout a thick canopy. It looks so severe yet if done properly can extend the life of the tree. We also stopped in Oberndorf, a small town near Salzburg. The song “Silent Night” was written here 200 years ago. The original chapel was damaged by flooding from the nearby river but a small memorial chapel has been built on the site. The rocks in the foreground are from the original chapel. It is a popular spot, especially this anniversary year, with a museum and most importantly a post office where you can get special stamps. I sent a few postcards but am now regretting not picking up a few more stamps. They were very pretty.

This is the bend in the river so you can see how it might flood if ice packed up on the curve. Salt was barged down stream here up until quite recently. Across the river is Bavaria in Germany. There was a cemetery quite near to where we parked the car. Beautifully kept and the graves were all dressed up for the season. We checked into our hotel which was the same one I stayed in a couple summers ago. Walking distance to the old town so quite convenient. We wandered around the market place which was filled to bursting with stalls selling everything Christmas and all kinds of foods and drinks. A miners’ choir started singing Christmas carols in front of the Cathedral. It was very beautiful.

The place was packed–it took us several tries before we found a restaurant that had room for us. But the food was hot and the beer was cold!! I was so hungry I forgot to take pictures but it was delish–I had a very traditional dish made of calf’s head, with potato salad on the side.

I wandered around afterward, enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of the market in such a historic place. Back to the hotel where I couldn’t keep my eyes open. The early darkness is so deceptive. I kept thinking it was much later than it actually was, I just couldn’t keep wake long enough to write last night so I’m writing this in the morning. My pedometer said I walked 8.5 k yesterday. I’m not sure I believe that. Even doing multiple circuits of the market wouldn’t add up like that. But I was tired and now I’m not!! Time to get up. Have a good day all 😊

Museum city

I had great plans yesterday for what I would accomplish today. But things never turn out quite the way you like.

I was awake till almost two last night and then slept late. I refuse to put the alarm on till I get back home. But I had thought I would tour the Christmas market at Schönbrunn and Spittelberg. I walked instead of taking the tram in the morning. There is a shop along Quellenstrasse that I thought I might find something interesting in for my daughter. And I did but I won’t say what it is because she reads this blog from time to time. Turns out though, I should have just got on the tram–I couldn’t remember where the shop was–it was about half a block back from the tram stop. D’oh!!!

I headed out to Schönbrunn full of vim and vigor only to find the market doesn’t open till afternoon. So back I came. It was a bit drizzly and I had seen a poster, several really, in the tram tunnels for a few art exhibitions I wanted to see. I find my best to do things pasted on the tram tunnel walls. It just so happened when I got off the tram back in the city I was right in front of the museum I’d wanted to see. This was the Vienna city museum and the exhibit I wanted to see was a picture display from the end of the first war to the beginning of the republic, 1918-1919. It was really quite fascinating, not only the still pictures, but new fangled moving pictures of the crowds in the streets as the republic was announced. Of course the war was hard for both sides and towards the end the German side was deserting like crazy. The writing was on the wall and everyone just wanted to get home. Things were really bad in the city with food and fuel shortages and TB was a big killer. My father was born in ’21, and he had two older siblings who perished during this time. The family was very poor and they are the ones who suffer the most. The fuel shortages were so severe that all the trees and greenery that could be burnt were, and a great part of the Vienna woods was also harvested.

But I really enjoyed the films that were made–you can see from the reaction of the people on the street what a novelty the camera was, so men and boys, (there were very few women), were mugging for the camera. Plus ca change, plus ca rest la meme. But those young boys will be old, old men today. If they didn’t die in the second war…

There were a few other exhibits in this museum, the only one which interested me was art work from St Stephan’s cathedral. I had absolutely no idea that it had been bombed during the end of the war and rebuilt in the 50’s!!! But most of these beautiful works of art date from the 13-14th century’s. Like this painted panel from a series of six–the colours are still so vivid!!This fresco was somehow rescued and pasted (?) onto another backing. Also from the mid thirteenth century was this complete horse armour, the only one in existence from this era. And the facial features on this sculpture of Mary are just exquisite. There were panels of the original stained glass–Thomas Aquinas was quoted in 1250, “whence things are called beautiful which have a bright color,”. They loved bright colors in the Middle Ages. This next one is only a piece of a panel, you can see the wing tips of Archangel Michael weighing souls, and imps fiddling the weight in the scales. Well that was a lot of standing on hard floors and my feet were starting to hurt. It was still too early to go eat market food and I really wanted a sit down so I chanced upon a coucouserie. Check out the size of the serving of wine!! and the lamb couscous was delicious!!It was after lunch I began arguing with my map feature on the phone. I wanted to go to the Spittelberg market and I knew where it was but apparently my phone knew different.

I was wrong.

But I walked thru the market in the museum quarter on the way–such beautiful Christmas things. And food and drink!! If only I had the hollow leg I always thought I had. I couldn’t eat another bite after that couscous. And the Spittelberg market was in narrow medieval streets, running up and down several hilly alleys. It was so pretty. Too dark to get really good shots. I bought some mustard in ceramic pots and tasted fantastic cheese. I’m almost sorry I didn’t buy some but it was 12 euros a hundred grams which is what I might put in my sandwich. But he was very generous with the samples and I sampled a lot. 😊

Time to head home and put my feet up. Strange, my knee isn’t hurting, it’s my bunion!! OMG it’s a bitch to get old. Aches and pains in places where you never had places before!!! But I downloaded an app tonight as I was watching Rosenheimer Cops, to calculate how far I’m walking these days. I thought it would start to calculate tomorrow but no–apparently our phones keep track of our movements and I have calculations for the whole week. Today I walked 10.5k. And yesterday 9.5. Not really much but considering I really haven’t been walking this fall it’s a lot. The equivalent of climbing 14 stories. Ouch!!

We’re off to Salzburg tomorrow so I hope I sleep well. G’night.

My paws are sore

I started the day with a major find at my favourite second hand shop. It deals mostly in Land Clothes, which are the traditional country clothes of Austria. When people dress up here, many go straight to the land clothes, beautiful sweaters, wool and linen jackets, dirndl dresses for the ladies, loden or leather for the men. They are in bright reds, navy blues, forest greens, classic linen and greys and the women’s dresses are all colours of the rainbow.

Think Heidi or Snow White, or Heidi’s grandfather, or the huntsman from Snow White meets Mr Darcy… The younger generation has really embraced these styles and put their own twist on it, wearing boots with dresses and the girls wearing lederhosen, a traditional men’s garb.

This is a beautiful couple, so typically dressed to go out on the town…I’ve taken these images from google and I only hope I haven’t slipped a German costume in by accident. My Austrian cousin who reads my blog will be very disappointed in me. The women’s dresses are very flattering and the men all look very tailored and handsome.

Anyway I found a wool jacket in excellent condition on the one Euro rack!! SCORE!! These clothes are very expensive and I can only afford to look at the new ones. But now I have a lovely jacket.

I found my way back into the City, and toured both the Papyrus Museum and the Globe Museum. The Papyrus Museum had really ancient documents from early Egyptian civilization but what really got me were the mummy portraits. These were painted on wood then placed on the top of the sarcophagus along with a tag to identify the person inside. Studies have been done showing that while many portraits appear to be generic pictures of “a young man or woman” some actually seem to have the physical features of the skull within the sarcophagus. The last one, while in the poorest condition also had the saddest eyes. I’ve taken the picture at a peculiar angle to try to reduce the glare–the lighting was really awful.

The scribes and ordinary citizens who wrote really had complete mastery of their quills or stylus’s. The writing is so exquisite. But the lighting was so low, to protect the displays, that pictures just wouldn’t turn out. The Globe Museum had a great display too. These were meant to be pieces of art as well as educational items and some of them stood taller than me. Globes made before the new world was “discovered ” had enlarged images of Europe and the known world. It was known that something was there but not exactly what. So dragons and mermaids filled the empty spots. It was the middle of the afternoon by the time I finished in the museums. I walked by the Spanish Riding Academy and the horses were peeking out of their stalls. When I was a kid we were able to walk right thru the barns. Now everyone has to stay outside the building.

I recently read the story of how the Lipizzaner’s were saved during the war. The Perfect Horse by Elizabeth Letts. It was quite the fascinating read, a real nail biter. They almost didn’t make it. The one German officer who was collecting them was going to try his own genetic experiment to breed a super horse. Thankfully he only had a year or two of experimentation before the horses were saved and returned to their own particular farms. Some horses were lost but most survived and the flying horses still put on shows here in Vienna and around the world.

Time to refuel. The cup of punch I had between museums had long worn off. Time for some real food. Back to my favourite schnitzel haus. But you know, I could only manage half!! The rest came home in a doggie bag. My paws were so sore from all the walking today I gave up on going back to the big Christmas market at the Rathauspark. I have to pace myself. Tomorrow night for sure.’s all folks…good night 😊

Out and about

Yesterday was a bit of a loss. I slept really late and of course my phone had no SIM so I had no idea what time it was. My cousins were out for the early part of the day and had left me the key so I decided I couldn’t sleep the whole day, I had to get out and get moving. It was mild and drizzly and I really enjoyed the walk down to the market, window shopping all the way. My cousins’ district has lots of immigrants, mostly middle eastern, so there are lots of kebab shops and middle eastern grocery stores.

I needed a ticket for the tram too but all the tabac/trafic shops were closed. It’s only a ten minute walk to the market so once there I asked the girl at the phone shop where I could buy a ticket. She reminded me about the ticket machines in the ubahn so I picked a 7 day ticket there. I wandered around my favourite market, looking for schmaltz, the juicy renderings from a pork roast. I found some but they weren’t quite right, being from bacon I think. So I will have to keep looking.

I did some clothes shopping too. I hate clothes shopping but I was lucky and found some really nice things for a very reasonable price. There were a few Christmas market stalls set up, and one selling punch in real ceramic mugs. You pay a deposit on the mug and wander around drinking your punch, then return the mug for the deposit or keep it. It was very pretty!!I wandered a bit more before heading home. You know, I was so tired I can’t honestly say what we did after. Did we go out? Did we stay in? It gets dark earlier here than at home, sunset is just after four so I was all discombobulated. I did wake up just after midnight and stayed awake till fourish. It was hard to get motivated this morning.

Somehow I misplaced my phone case where I had slipped my tram ticket. My cousins and I tore the house apart looking for it and just when I had given up, I found it. Right in the last place I looked 😝. Seriously.

Again the cousins had business for a few hours in the morning but I found a 15th century mural on a house in the old part of the city I wanted to see. It’s a mural of a cow and a wolf, in spectacles, playing backgammon, with a man standing behind them. It’s close to St Stephan’s so I sat inside the church listening to the organ while I tried to figure out exactly where this mural was. Outside there were many Christmas stalls around the back of the church,so I had to have a wander around. So many beautiful things!! I’m like a magpie–ooh look–something shiny!!!

Back to the mural. A few zigs and zags and there it was… Backerstrasse 12 with a tremma over the first a.It was really raining and I was struggling with the umbrella trying not to drop the phone or get it wet so it’s not the picture I wanted. Back at the Quellengasse station there is a little coffee shop. I’ve decided I will stop for a coffee and a pastry every day I pass. Life is too short not to have a melange mitt schlagobers (coffee with cream AND whipped cream) AND a pastry. Today was mohn/marillen (poppyseed/apricot). I’d already stirred the whipped cream in before I took the picture. Sorry.All three of us went out in the afternoon to the Austrian National Library museum. I am completely gaga for old manuscripts and there were many on display. I really wanted to see the Gutenburg bible but that was the feature display from last June. But this months’ was a 500 year old copy of a 4th century Roman map. Almost as good but it was protected by a light screening piece of glass that I could not photograph through. Yes we were allowed to take pictures but not with the flash. And there were a few globes, also approximately 500 years old. Globes of this period were made in pairs, one a terrestrial globe and the other a celestial globe. And the vaulted ceiling was painted with a mural. We’ll have to get Carla on this, right Viv??There are four parts to this museum but I will catch the other three tomorrow. It was getting late. We wandered around the center and made our way over to the Rathaus (City hall) where the largest of the Christmas markets is. Thru the park across the street the light was perfect to see the pollarding details in these old trees. And there is a rose garden where people can buy roses as a gift to a loved one. My cousin and joked that it looked like a plant graveyard this time of year. The lights were beautiful but hard to do justice to with a phone camera. It was not very crowded but we were a bit early. We just wandered, had some schnapps, watched the kids skating on some artificial ice. I’m not sure what the cooling mechanism is, there is an adult skating area too but it’s definitely not natural ice–far too warm. But nice to see. The kids have penguins to hold onto…The wind was a bit sharp tonight so we decided to head home and watch the Rosenheimer Cops, a police comedy set in Bavaria. On the train home I sneakily snapped a shot of this mans’ pants and footwear. Red corduroy and green canvas sneakers. Never in a million years would you see this in small town Canada but I think it looks great. Men actually wear color here.

Anyhoo, hope to sleep tonight and be up and at ’em in the morning. Night…

Four hours in Gatwick

I had the nicest customs officer coming into Gatwick. We had quite the chat doubtless inconveniencing everyone in line behind me. My bag actually made all the connections and as I asked directions on how to find the Easyjet check in the very spiffily dressed man told me I could check my bag thru to Vienna right there and go for a train ride into London during my four hour wait. I thought that might be pushing it but I did take the shuttle to the train station and people watched for a bit. There’s everyone in the world here!!

On the Reykjavik-Gatwick leg I sat beside the most interesting young man. He sells software to hotels and travels lots. He gave me tips for my return trip. Apparently there is a tap system for trains and tube, cheaper and more efficient than buying paper tickets. He also suggested using Thameslink instead of the Gatwick Express. So on my way back I’ll do that for my day trip into the British Library.

I didn’t dare get on a train. I could just see me missing my flight. But it’s about 10 C here. Still pretty green here. All the fields were filled with sheep. It was -18 in Edmonton when I left this morning. I really wanted to get outside into the sun but it’s just not set up for that. But I did find a Cornish pasty shop and bought one for supper. The smell is amazing. So I guess I’ll go check in and maybe finish my book.

The adventure begins

I’m so hoping the absolutely horrible drive into Edmonton yesterday means smooth sailing from here to Vienna. Thank goodness Alberta paints lines on their roads or I might still be out there. Sooo icy and as I’m an old fart, driving in the dark is challenging to say the least. I’ve spend the last week fussing with this and that, trying to make things easier for my daughter who’s left in charge of the ranch while I’m gone. But now I’m on the road, I have to let go and begin to enjoy myself.

I checked in to this lovely new hotel and really had a great sleep. I had a weird dream where I looked at the clock and it was 4:11. I woke with a start, checked my phone and it was 4:11!!! Spooky!!

But now to get moving, final pack and stow overnight bag in the car–I can leave it here while I’m away so that’s convenient, breakfast and head to the airport. I’m more than slightly annoyed with Icelandair for cancelling their direct flight out of Edmonton. I now have to travel thru Pearson. I only hope my bag is checked all the way to Gatwick.

Ciao Bella